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IT minister to commission hi-speed rural broadband network in Kerala

MUMBAI: Minister for Communications & IT Ravi Shankar Prasad will be commissioning India’s first hi-speed rural broadband network in Idukki district, Kerala, under the Digital India Programme, at a function to be held in Thiruvananthapuram on 12 January.

The event marks a key milestone in ushering in a new era of Digital India. The National Optic Fibre Network (NOFN) is the largest rural connectivity project in the world. It seeks to link each of the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats of India through broadband optical fibre network. Upon completion, NOFN is expected to facilitate broadband connectivity to over 600 million rural citizens of the country.

With this commissioning, Idukki, which is relatively inaccessible and has a large tribal and rural population, will become the first district in the country to have all its GPs connected through NOFN.

It is expected that the laying of NOFN would open up new avenues for access service providers like mobile operators, cable TV operators, etc. to launch next-generation services and spur creation of local employment opportunities encompassing e-commerce, IT outsourcing, etc., as well as services such as e-banking, e-health and e-education for inclusive growth.

This could also enable delivery of various services such as local planning, management, monitoring and payments under government schemes at the panchayat level.

NOFN, which is being funded by the Universal Service Obligation Fund (USOF), Department of Telecom, Ministry of Communications & IT is envisaged as a non-discriminatory telecom infrastructure that will bridge the gap in rural telecom access.

NOFN will enable each of the 2.5 Lakh GPs to have 100 Mbps of bandwidth, thereby facilitating the delivery of various e-services and applications including e-health, e-education, e-governance and e-commerce in future.

In the first phase NOFN will be extended to cover 50,000 GPs, with the balance 2,00,000 GPs expected to be covered in a phased manner by 2016. The project is being implemented by three central PSUs (CPSUs), namely BSNL, PGCIL and Railtel in Phase I.

A key feature of the project is that the GPON equipment used in the project has been indigenously designed and developed by C-DOT and manufactured domestically. The project will be centrally managed by BBNL through a high capacity network management system being developed by C-DOT.

Digital India is a flagship programme of the government of India which aims to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The provision of broadband connectivity to every citizen is one of the key objectives of Digital India, and the commissioning of the NOFN network at Idukki is expected to mark a significant step towards realisation of this ambitious vision.